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An invitation I had to decline

Vince Sampson, of the Education Finance Council

Recently I received an invitation to “a lively discussion” at the National Press Club in Washington DC between Jeffrey J. Selingo, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s VP and editorial director, and “thought leaders”, including Terry W. Hartle, senior VP of Government and Public Affairs at the American Council on Education and Douglas Hotlz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum. As well as Carrie Hansen, Product Manager, NorthStar Education Services, Dr. Bronte Jones, Treasurer, St. John’s College, and Vince Sampson, President, Education Finance Council”

Their goal? “Develop evidence-based solutions to escalating student default rates that will help all students.”

Who’s sponsoring it? “The Career Education Corporation” and “The Education Finance Council.” The education finance council is paid to sell a college education loan to “special populations” while NorthStar Education Services is paid to enforce student loan debts.

Based on the sponsors and the speakers, do you think that this particular discussion is going to

A.) Stop the corporatization of American education?
B.) Help students get out of debt or
C.) Make conditions more difficult for every student by insisting they pay back their loans no matter HOW BIG the debt?

What do you think boys and girls?

In the grand traditions of the hilarious David Thorne at 27bslash6, I had to have a go.

My response below.

Dear Mr. Sampson,

Just wanted to thank you for the exclusive invitation to your one day conference on “student loan default,” however I will be unable to attend as I am 3,000 miles away from Washington DC.

I will however be happy to give my advice about how to avoid student loan default, saving you the trouble of having a conference at all!

Make government pay for higher education, as they do in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, and as they used to do in England.

This way, no student will ever default on a loan, because there will be no loans.

You may say, “Well, the free market”! and of course, that is what we are known for here in America.

However, the standards of living are so much higher in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark that I think you’ll agree that our current “free market” system is not turning out as we want it to.

I propose that we have unchecked capitalism at the core of why people are defaulting on their loans. Student debt has passed $1 Trillion in this country, more than credit cards for the first time ever, because of unchecked capitalism on the part of colleges and universities. According to the U.S. Department of Education, between 2001 and 2011, the average total cost to attend a four-­year public college or  university rose by 90 %. (emphasis mine)

Source:(Fiscal Year 2013  Budget of the United States of America, Department of Education Budget Request, p. R-­‐18­‐loansoverview.pdf)

I myself went to a private college that now costs $250,000 for 4 years of education. In the 1970s, this school cost barely $18,000 to graduate from. Students cannot discharge their loans even in bankruptcy. Of COURSE they are defaulting.

When I asked them why they raised their prices, they said, “We’re charging what the market will bear.” Are these the words of a thoughtful, kind policy towards students? A policy that helps students NOT default on their loans? Or is it an expression of unchecked capitalism?

Unchecked capitalism eventually eats up the very markets it wishes to sell to.

Meanwhile administrative staff at universities has grown 300% in the last 30 years, while tenure goes away, and adjunct professors paid $1,500 per term become the norm rather than the exception.

Do you think that this is right?

I do not think that going to a “lively discussion” between the American Council on Education and the American Action Forum will lead to the government paying for student education. Why did you not ask some of the people you’re discussing to join you? Why not ask a student loan defaulter their side of the story? Perhaps their hard reality would be a bit much for this corporate discussion.

This sort of discussion between people paid to enforce student loan defaults and the rapacious corporatized universities would probably be as fruitful as my dog having a discussion with my cat about the state of the back porch. The cat will swipe at the dog as the dog walks by, and then, when the dog sits down, she will come over and rub up against the dog, wave her tail around the dog’s nose until the dog quietly leaves the room.

Until we legislate in Congress and the Senate for free education for our population, certain universities will continue to do exactly as they please, and charge “what the market will bear.”

Unless you’re having a session about lobbying for nationalizing education and getting the government to pay for it with increased taxes, with universities lining up for their dose of ethics, morals, and humanity, I doubt you’ll do much to change this “student loan default crisis.”


Mazarine Treyz
A person who still has student loan debt


3 responses on “An invitation I had to decline

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m with Mazarine *and* Melissa and I have this to add: energy price inflation has increased education costs quite a bit. And while many schools think that their athletics program is a big fundraiser, the Chronicle of Higher Ed published a study that showed that for all but one of the big public universities, athletics were a net drain.

    • Mazarine Mazarine says:

      That is so fascinating Sarah, i had no idea that the athletics programs were such a big drain!
      I think if energy prices are increasing, the schools do need to get more money from the government to pay for the energy prices.

      hi Melissa! I think it costs more here because 1. Greed 2. government money going away 3. Bloated overhead of university administration. but what do YOU think?
      I totally agree we should encourage people to make better long term choices. I myself was totally entranced by the marketing of various schools, which they are allowed to do, to send predatory packages to 17 and 18 year olds who don’t know what the term experience marketing is, and have no defenses against it.
      I think colleges and universities should have more regulations about how and who they can market to. I would never have picked a top tier school. It wasn’t worth the money.

  2. Melissa says:

    I appreciate what you say here, but I think the issues are more complex. Let’s start with why has college costs risen so much in the last twenty years? I’m not comfortable with young people coming out of college with $80,000 or more in debt. But I’m also not comfortable with the govt (meaning taxpayers) having to pay upwards of $150,000 per student to complete an education. That isn’t the cost of getting a degree in any of the countries that you mention. Why does it cost so much more here?

    I agree, let’s get the for profit entities out of education. But let’s also get back to efficient, quality education at the University level. Pay professors, build and equip state of the art labs, etc, but let’s put less focus on athletic centers, admin, fancy dorms, and such.

    Let’s get the cost of college back down to a more reasonable level, cap the levels of family and student contributions, set a smaller maximum for loans, and provide more government support.

    Let’s also encourage parents and students to make better long-term choices. Think more about what kind of career and lifestyle you might want and pursue a course of study in-line with that thinking.